Why Conversation Starters Are Important
Many children with autism struggle with basic socials, one of which is how to start a conversation. Neurotypical people tend to take for granted some of the skills that we have, such as how to go up to a random person or a friend and begin a conversation. Conversation starters for kids with autism give children the tools they need to flawlessly begin talking with someone else without sounding awkward or too contrived. Once children with autism have these starters "in their back pocket," so to speak, they will obviously need additional skills to keep the conversation flowing. The skill of starting a conversation, however, opens the door to the usage of many other skills.
General Conversation Starters
The most basic conversation starters that children with autism need differ based on the norms of their peers. Some of the conversation starters that a child may need to know include "Hey, how's it going?" "What's up?" and "Hi, [name], I haven't seen you for a while." They might also try some conversation starters that ask more specific questions, such as "What are you doing after school today?" or "Where have you been? I missed you." Discuss with the child when each of these conversation starters are appropriate.
The Purpose of the Conversation
Some conversation starters are based on the purpose of the conversation. For example, a child might approach a game of tag and say, "Can I play?" without a need for any other conversation starter. Alternatively, a child might ask "Can you tell me how to get to the gym?" or "I see you're lost. Can I help you?" depending on the situation.
Talking About Your Own Experiences or Interests
Some of the best conversation starters are based on the speaker's own experiences or interests. For example, any of these are strong conversation starters:
- You'll never guess what I just heard!
- Guess what I did yesterday?
- I went to the Tigers game yesterday.
- I love summertime. Do you?
Talking About the Experiences or Interests of Others
Other conversation starters for kids with autism relate to the experiences or interests of others. These are especially important, because some children with autism have a hard time expressing interest in other children's needs or thoughts. Children with autism need to be taught to ask questions like "How was your weekend?" on Monday morning or "Do you like the Tigers?" if they see another child whose shirt has a Tigers logo on it. They also need to remember details about the other person in order to come up with individualized conversation starters, such as "How was the English test you were worried about?" or "Did you end up going to the party last night?"
These conversation starters for kids with autism can help children feel more comfortable engaging in discussions with their peers. Teaching them this skill, along with RDI or other methods of teaching social skills, will help them build up their other social skills as well.